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1005 Lincoln Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Joe Tesar

What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
The resources offered by Ann Arbor SPARK are tremendous. I try to attend seminars/round-tables on business development, website management, etc as often as I can. I also took part in a semester-long class at University of Michigan-Dearborn in 2008-9 designed to teach new entrepreneurs to effectively develop and market products. After being an engineer for many years, these sorts of opportunities are extremely helpful in getting a handle on all the things an entrepreneur needs to take care of.

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
The first customer was the USDA. We won a Phase I SBIR grant that looked at the best ways that smaller farmers can take advantage of alternative/renewable energy.

Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
We haven't promoted any interns to employees yet, but we do work with one of the development centers at Michigan State University on a regular basis, and this gives us the opportunity to interact with all sorts of very high quality students. When funding is more stable, that is where we will likely find the type of employee we are looking for.

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
Anyone working in renewable energy will tell you that finding capital is a huge hurdle. Our technology isn't quite mature enough for VCs or angel investors to find interesting. Right now, grants from the Federal government (and our own money) is getting us to the point where we can demonstrate prototypes and garner private investment. Our philosophy is that a viable prototype is the most valuable way to prove to investors that you are a good investment.

What are some of the advantages to doing business here?
I mentioned Ann Arbor SPARK as a really great resource for entrepreneurs, and there is no doubt that is a very unique asset in Ann Arbor. At Ann Arbor SPARK events, you typically can find a pool of like-minded local entrepreneurs who are happy to share ideas on how to solve the various problems that all small businesses face. There are also groups on the state level who can offer assistance on how to move your business forward, ranging from SBTDC to people in Lansing agencies. I've also gotten help from people in the MSU extension offices who really know the farm market. Almost everyone I talk to is eager to help me, or to point me in the right direction.

If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
I'd be very glad if policy makers could take a longer view of energy production in Michigan. A large fraction of the money we spend for coal or natural gas leaves the state -- imagine how much more vigorous our economy would be if we thought about  local energy production. Not just with biogas systems like Quantalux is developing, but also with more large-scale wind. Biomass and wind are the renewable energy sources best suited to Michigan's geography, and that's where we should make long-term investments.

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